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Manhattan Drug Crimes Defense AttorneyThe New York State Police now train drug detection dogs to sniff out cocaine, heroin, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamine, and PCP--but not, since mid-2018, marijuana. Once the state legalizes marijuana possession, which is expected to happen within the next year or so, all drug dogs trained to detect marijuana will be obsolete. Once a dog has been trained to “alert” on a particular drug, that training cannot be reversed.

The Meaning of Probable Cause for a Drug Search

The legal principle at issue is “probable cause.” Police may not lawfully search your person, car, or home without probable cause to believe that they will discover evidence of criminal activity. For example, the police cannot pull your car over for no reason; they must have probable cause that you have committed a crime. If an officer saw you run a red light or clocked you speeding, then they have probable cause to pull you over.

Similarly, if you are stopped for speeding, the police do not have the automatic right to search the trunk of your car for evidence of other offenses such as drug crimes or weapons possession. The police can, however, bring a drug detection dog over to sniff around your car. If the drug “alerts” to the presence of a drug it was trained to detect, that gives the police probable cause to do the search.

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